Infinite Ear : Why do you do things last minute?

On the occasion of WITHIN/Infinite Ear at Bergen Assembly, Raimundas Malašauskas wrote a report about his journey through the exhibition.

If you are not someone who pushes everything (travel booking, writing, decision making) to the last minute you still may be interested to answer this question in the company of those who succumb to the thrill of lottery or a fear of failure: often those are ‘last minute’ drives combined with the privileging of one’s own sense of time.

But obviously asking ‘Why do you do things last minute?’ is a way to address not just the people who do things last minute. It is not an inquiry into the position of a minute in the timeline either - I am rather talking about the difference of our states and positions there, and their continuous (and discontinuous) change. This is how I feel exploring the project that addresses the Deaf audience: it also addresses anyone who is interested in the practice of listening, even if we hear different things. I am one of those amateurs of listening, caught by the scale and open circuitry of the orchestra of ‘WITHIN/Infinite Ear’. (It is definitely an orchestra even if it sometimes may look like a display of a technical university gallery in a dry pool.)

In its core, ‘The Infinite Ear’ draws on the architecture of sensible difference: together we may be simply touched by different range of the same frequency, and feel that we are in rather different, but hopefully, not in separate worlds. We may be leaning on the same walls and experience different buildings vibrating through our bodies. We may be attentive to those sensations and their inadequacy and follow other conductive surfaces, including blanks, blankets, hands, thoughts, water (pool), fire (station), etc.

By conductivity, I mean the capacity of matter to transmit all kinds of vibration: molecular, electric, sonic, intellectual. This phenomenon - real and imagined in their own conductivity, resulting in fascinating interference patterns - operates on multiple levels of scale and organisation like the building of the pool in Bergen itself, individual instruments constructed by its practitioners, or dust on your fingers. One can find an orchestra in every finger, regardless whether the finger is visual or tactile, alive or dead; only the tempo may be different, perhaps. Or those are simply different orchestras, even if there is just dust, no finger: as we learn from olfactory science two identical molecules may have rather different vibration and smell differently.

But there is also a timeline. It is Pauline Oliveros ‘Deep Listening’ session that brings me to the subject of the last minute, again. At this very moment, I am furthest away from the sound emitted by a chime that Saturday afternoon at Sentralbadet in Bergen - literally in the last minute since that very moment. Three weeks ago together with a dozen of people who swarmed from all around and then dissipated with softened ears we’ve sat down in a circle under the water level (with no water at the eyesight, just rain outside.) Pauline and Ione rang the chime and asked us to listen to the sound as long as we can hear it, and when we don’t hear the sound anymore we should try to detect what it’s becoming: the sound of the windows, wind, saliva being swallowed inside one’s throat, someone else’s throat, etc. Before arriving to this moment and possibly continuing on Moodymann’s dance floor tonight, the signal of the chime swung through the space of the pool. It thinned down, stayed in slinky stillness, gauzed all around. Few days later the signal blinked in a conversation with CAConrad who was telling about his ritual of laying down on the blanket in the field and listening to the sounds of extinct species as a way to maintain the sonic ecosystem of the biosphere, dusky seaside sparrow and shrimps exploding. It resonated with the White Cat Bar (of course, cat!) in its ghostly swish, then came back in a night walk with Gregory through his description of Actress playing a DJ set for both dead and alive, base frequencies only, beatless; then emerged in a childhood game where we played conductors, not doctors, and in the dream where a clothes’ shop alarm turned out to be a one hour long alarm of the clock. A fuzzy sequence. The conducting of a complex orchestra of these encounters was done by Pauline Oliveros and Ione in one exercise. They became the conductors of that poly-orchestra that ‘WITHIN/ The Infinite Ear’ has become on its own. Sometimes it felt like conductors were interchangeable, yet activating very different scenarios of experience. Witnessing the simultaneity of multiple conductors (including the instruments itself) releasing unseen potentials of orchestra and themselves like Robert Demeter poured vastest joy through me.

Perhaps it may seem I am trying to advocate delivering things last minute as a guarantee they would be qualitatively better or more complex than experiences of the quick moment. Perhaps I do that too, while being certain that focusing on one minute after the beginning of the signal could be as unearthing and grounding as focusing on the three weeks flow. Focusing on one minute before the signal - too. Abolishing counting and separation - no less so. Time may exist or not, but timelines do – whether they are architectural and mathematical or hairy. And one can always go in different directions from here. Following a chosen one together with Sandra we enter a pool in Pantin, Paris. It must be spring or autumn, and both. This project emerges as a similar kind of orchestra, a composition of individual treatments resulting in a series of perceptual events that perhaps resonates like the one I am musing about. Few minutes later I am walking with Ben Evans. We are deep into the ripples of conversation and silences. At the end of our session I promise him to send a piece that resonates it: it is a poem from Nezahualcoyotl, an Aztec king of the XV century who died only 20 years before the arrival of the Spanish, translated by Laura Huertas Millan. But I never did. So here it comes, first its beginning:

The spring song
In the house of paintings,
Starts the singing
And it spreads,
The flowers lose their leaves,
The songs are abundant.

The song meanders,
the tambourine bells
come and go,
are echoed by
our maracas full of flowers
The flowers lose their leaves,
The songs are abundant.

Amongst the flowers
The fine pheasant sings,
and his songs comes undone
in the waters´ womb.
They are responded
by the macaw with red plumage
the lovely macaw with a beautiful song.

Your heart is a painted oeuvre,
you enter into the song,
and you hit the drums,
you are singing,
in the spring house,
you the pleasure giver.


Text by

  • Raimundas Malašauskas

Image: Deep Listening session with Pauline Oliveros, Bergen Assembly, Bergen, 2016, ph. Thor Brødreskift